Nov. 21, 2010

Courtesy of Clarion Athletics

Regional champions!

The Clarion University womens volleyball team won the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional title and advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 26-24) win over California Sunday afternoon at Edinboros McComb Fieldhouse.

It means a lot to everyone on the team,” Clarion junior Libero Rhianon Brady, who had a match-high 17 digs, said. Weve been working really hard, and its really exciting to see it all pay off and to see how far weve come with our hard work. It really shows how much weve worked over the last three years.”

Clarion (32-4), the top seed in the Region, got all it could handle from third-seeded California (23-13) but was able to stick with its game plan and pull out the straight-set win.

More than anything, Im really proud of how hard the girls have worked and how good they have gotten,” Clarions fourth-year head coach Jennifer Harrison said. Their hard work is paying off. Im so proud of how theyve stayed together as a family unit, and I cant even begin to tell you how excited I am the way theyve represented their university.”

The Golden Eagles used a balanced performance to get the win.

PSAC-West Athlete of the Year Kellie Bartman, a junior outside hitter, once again led the way with 12 kills and 10 digs, but as usual she got plenty of help.

Sophomore middle hitter Rebecca Webb had 11 kills and six blocks while hitting .474 (11 kills, 2 errors, 19 attempts) while freshman middle hitter Corinne Manley had eight kills while hitting .667 (8-0-12) and freshman right-side hitter/middle hitter Hannah Heeter had eight kills and four blocks while hitting .353 (8-2-17).

Im really happy to see the balance,” Harrison said. Kellie has been taking most of the swings, but the nice thing is we have two freshmen and Rebecca who had amazing games. They tend to get better and better. Its hard to defend a team with five great hitters on the court.”

Amanda Gough did another outstanding job finding the hitters with 39 set assists while adding five digs, while Kaitlyn Anderson chipped in six kills and seven digs.

We are seeing our goals at this time of the season and how important it is to keep together,” Brady said.

Clarion trailed for most of the first set before rallying from a 20-18 deficit to take the set 25-23.

I think we came out a little bit jittery, but we settled in fairly quickly,” Harrison said.

In the second set, Clarion controlled things from the beginning building a 19-10 lead before getting the 25-18 win.

The third set turned into a barn-burner wit Cal taking the early advantage only to watch Clarion have two match-point opportunities that the Vulcans held off.

But Clarion finally put the match away when Cal couldnt cleanly handle a Webb serve setting off a celebration on the court and in the stands, where at least 75 or 80 Golden Eagle faithful made up the majority of the crowd of 130.

Down the stretch, when Cal had the momentum, we took strong swings and didnt lie down,” Harrison said. Thats important that they can be strong at that point of the match rather than tense up. Thats a huge testament to how hard they are working.”

Clarion will take on Dowling (30-1) in the NCAA Division II Quarterfinals Dec. 2 in Louisville, Ky.

NOTES - Three Golden Eagles made the All-Region Tournament team: Bartman, Webb and Gough … The 2010 volleyball team becomes just the fourth Clarion team to reach the final eight in a NCAA Division II Tournament. The team joins the 1996 football team (semifinals), the 1994 womens basketball team (Elite Eight) and the 1991 womens basketball team (Elite Eight) … The 32 wins are a school record bettering the mark of 31 in 2002 … Clarion also won its first PSAC Title since 1988 this season and its first PSAC-West title in school history … The win was the third of the season for Clarion over Cal, the Golden Eagles first three-game win streak over the Vulcans since winning three in a row from 2002 to 2003.